Nuns who help homeless can't afford rent increase in San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO -- Sister Mary Benedicte wants to focus on feeding the hungry lined up outside a soup kitchen in a gritty part of San Francisco.

See Full Article

But the city's booming economy means even seedy neighbourhoods are demanding higher rents, threatening to force out an order of nuns who serve the homeless.

The sisters of Fraternite Notre Dame's Mary of Nazareth House said Tuesday that they can't afford a monthly rent increase of more than 50 per cent, from $3,465 to $5,500, and they have asked their landlord for more time to find a cheaper place to serve the poor.

"Everywhere the rent is very high, and many places don't want a soup kitchen in their place," said Sister Mary Benedicte on Tuesday, in her French-accented English. "It's very, very hard to find a place for a soup kitchen where people can feel welcome and where we can set up a kitchen for a reasonable price."

Since 2008, the modest kitchen has sat on a derelict street in the Tenderloin neighbourhood, long associated with homelessness and drug use. But it's also within walking distance of a revitalizing middle Market Street area, led by the relocation of Twitter in 2012.

Brad Lagomarsino, an executive vice-president with commercial real estate company Colliers International, said that since 2010 there's been a "dramatic increase" in residential and retail rents in the middle Market area, leading to spillover increases in the Tenderloin.

The still-seedy neighbourhood, in other words, is trending up.

Sister Mary Benedicte and Sister Mary of the Angels sleep in the back of the storefront and in the evenings, they bake pastries -- French tarts and cookies -- to sell at a local farmer's market to supplement their income.

The two sisters feed lunch to about 300 people three times a week. They offer dinner twice a week, using donated food and cash to dish up warm meals.

With help from a small number of volunteers, they served a lunch of vegetables and sausage, creole rice and cake on Tuesday.

"We not only feed them, we try to love them," Sister Mary Benedicte said. "Poor people, what's very hard for them is to be alone on the street. Some of them say the hardest part of living on the street is that nobody wants to speak with them."

A lawyer for the landlord said by email Tuesday that "no eviction is going forward" and the owner will meet with the nuns when he returns from India this week. The nuns also have a lawyer, who is working their case for free.

Faith-based organizations throughout the city are struggling to pay rent while providing social services to the needy, said Michael Pappas, executive director of the San Francisco Interfaith Council.

Some are renegotiating leases while others have had to cut back on office space or raise money to rehabilitate new property.

This isn't the San Francisco he knows.

"We were always looked upon as the pioneers in philanthropy," he said, "and I just think the forces of the economy are challenging us right now."


Latest Canada & World News

  • Pope Francis’ top financial adviser, cardinal questioned over sex allegations

    World News Toronto Sun
    SYDNEY, Australia — Australian police flew to Rome to interview a top Vatican cardinal about allegations of sexual assault dating back decades, officials said Wednesday. Cardinal George Pell, Pope Francis’ top financial adviser and one of his most trusted aides, has long been dogged by allegations he mishandled cases of clergy abuse when he was archbishop of Melbourne and later Sydney. Source
  • L.A. man with arsenal charged with making threats to Islamic centre

    World News CBC News
    A Los Angeles man found with multiple weapons and hundreds of pounds of ammunition in his home was charged with making terrorist threats to the Islamic Center of Southern California, authorities announced Tuesday. Mark Lucian Feigin was arrested last week on the charge, which has been designated as a hate crime, according to the Los Angeles Police Department. Source
  • Homeless sue Denver over sweeps of encampments

    World News Toronto Sun
    DENVER — When Jerry Burton’s sleeping bag and tent were removed by city workers from his campsite near a rapidly developing area close to downtown Denver, he was able to start over again with backup gear he keeps hidden for emergencies — whether his or someone else’s. Source
  • Cold Lake private Christian school shut down over alleged $1 million mismanagement [Video]

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    A Christian school board in Cold Lake was shut down Tuesday after financial irregularities were discovered, including directing nearly $1 million to a third party that was allegedly spending public cash on liquor, parties and gift cards. Source
  • Calgary top cop on the defensive, again, after damning 2013 workplace review surfaces

    Canada News CBC News
    Calgary's police chief is on the defensive after a three-year-old workplace review has surfaced showing a culture of bullying, harassment, intimidation and retaliation. The 29-page redacted document outlines a police service that some viewed as an "Old Boys Network," including interviews which revealed instances of workplace bullying and harassment involving men and women. Source
  • Chestermere crime kingpin jailed and fined

    Canada News Toronto Sun
    Crime kingpin Dung Kien Luong was sentenced Tuesday to 5 1/2 years in prison and ordered to pay fines of $1.5 million for tax evasion and other charges. Luong, 53, had earlier pleaded guilty to four charges as part of a plea deal which saw several others withdrawn by the Crown. Source
  • Indians shut down Cubs in World Series opener

    World News CBC News
    Corey Kluber got the Cleveland Indians off to a great start and Roberto Perez finished off the Chicago Cubs in their first World Series game since 1945. Kluber dominated into the seventh inning, Perez hit two home runs and the Indians beat the Cubs 6-0 in the opener Tuesday night. Source
  • Okla. police continue hunt for man accused of killing relatives, filming crime spree

    World News CTV News
    GRAPHIC CONTENT warning: Some of the details in this story are disturbing. OKLAHOMA CITY -- Authorities have spent more than 24 hours seeking a man they say posted live videos to social media while running from police during a violent crime spree that included shooting two police officers, armed car thefts and killing his aunt and uncle, apparently attempting to sever their heads. Source
  • Getting North Korea to give up nukes a 'lost cause,' U.S. intel chief says

    World News CTV News
    WASHINGTON -- National Intelligence director James Clapper said Tuesday that the U.S. goal of persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons is probably a "lost cause" and the best hope is to cap its capability. Source
  • Advocacy group calls on B.C. to release provincewide stats on police-dog bites

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER - A month after a bystander was mistakenly mauled by a Vancouver police dog, a legal advocacy group is calling on the provincial government to release newly gathered numbers outlining how many people are being bitten in British Columbia. Source